Milan registered their second consecutive loss on Thursday evening as Man Utd scored the only goal at San Siro, advancing to the next round. The Rossoneri are far from out of their crisis, in other words.
Stefano Pioli’s men played well once again but lacked the final touch, squandering several good opportunities while also gifting the goal. They have won just two of their last ten games (4D, 4L) and it’s clear they need to step up.
In his pre-match press conference, Stefano Pioli shared his thoughts on the game against Fiorentina and the feeling within the squad. He said that he expects an ‘excellent’ season finale from his side, expressing great confidence.
Game date: Sunday, 21 March
Kick-off time: 18:00 (CET)
Venue: Artemio Franchi
Referee: Marco Guida (VAR: Massa)
The injury crisis has been extremely long for the Rossoneri and it just keeps going on. Ismael Bennacer and Zlatan Ibrahimovic may have returned, but Davide Calabria was forced to surgery this week and will be out until the end of April.
We have to add the likes of Alessio Romagnoli, Rafael Leao, Ante Rebic and Mario Mandzukic to the injury list. The former two are expected to be out for around 20 days, which is far from good news. And Rebic, of course, is also suspended for two games.
The situation is far from ideal, in other words, but fortunately a few players have returned in recent weeks. Hakan Calhanoglu and Ibrahimovic spring to mind, but a player like Matteo Gabbia is also very important to have back for depth.
According to the latest reports, there will be a few changes to the starting XI that took the pitch against Man Utd. Fikayo Tomori was outstanding despite the defeat and will keep his spot along with Simon Kjaer in defence.
Gabbia would be the option at the back, but he’s arguably not on the same level as the other two. Theo Hernandez looked promising last time out and will be looking to really make a mark on the game tomorrow, starting on the left.
Sandro Tonali was given some rest against Man Utd but will once again return to the XI, sending Soualiho Meite back to the bench. Bennacer is also available, as mentioned, but he won’t be rushed back as last time.
The final changes will take place in attack, as Brahim Diaz is set to replace Rade Krunic in the attacking trio. Alexis Saelemaekers and Hakan Calhanoglu will keep their spots, though. They created many chances on Thursday evening, but no one was able to convert them.
Hopefully, with Ibrahimovic taking the only spot left, this will change as the Swede is a very good finisher. His return is obviously very important for the Rossoneri who have struggled big time when going forward as of late.
Probable Milan XI (4-2-3-1): Donnarumma; Dalot, Kjaer, Tomori, Theo Hernandez; Tonali, Kessie; Saelemaekers, Calhanoglu, Diaz; Ibrahimovic.
Fiorentina’s season has been a disaster if you look at the expectations ahead of it. The likes of Alfred Duncan, Christian Kouame, Jack Bonaventura and Jose Callejon were signed in the summer, making for a good mix with the players they already had.
On paper, their squad is indeed a very good one and you would have expected them to challenge for the Europa League spot. At the very least, they should be in the top half of the standings but currently sit in 13th place.
Beppe Iachini was sacked by the club back in November and Cesare Prandelli has been in charge since. However, not a lot has changed as they have actually gone down a spot in the standings, albeit at least looking a bit better on the pitch.
In their last five games, the Tuscan side have managed two wins, one draw and two losses, most recently beating Benevento by a whopping 4-1. Having said that, they have been consistently inconsistent throughout the season.
Prandelli will have to do without just two players, Igor and Kokorin, while the rest are at his disposal for the important game. Former Milan man, Bonaventura, is expected to play from the first minute and it will be nice to see him in action.
The No.5 spent many years with Milan and was a fan favourite at the club, performing well in what was a few dark years for the Rossoneri. When his contract expired ahead of this season, he opted to sign for Fiorentina.
Probable Fiorentina XI (3-5-2): Dragowski; Milenkovic, Pezzella, Quarta; Caceres, Bonaventura, Pulgar, Castrovilli, Venuti; Vlahovic, Ribery.
Head to head
Milan need to bounce back after two very tough defeats, considering that they weren’t terrible in both of those games. Based on the stats, they haven’t exactly been super successful in away encounters with Fiorentina.
In the reverse fixture, though, the win was never in doubt as Alessio Romagnoli opened the scoring early on. Before the game had reached 30 minutes, Kessie had doubled the lead from the spot with a nice strike.
There could have been more for the Rossoneri, as Kessie also missed a penalty while Calhanoglu hit the frame of the goal with a nice strike. All in all, a very comfortable win against a side that never really threatened the three points.
However, at the Artemio Franchi, the story is different and Fiorentina will surely be inspired by their big win last time out. Hopefully, Milan will bounce back with what would be an extremely important win.
Match facts (via Opta):
➤ AC Milan have won five of their last 10 matches against Fiorentina in Serie A (D3 L2).
➤ Fiorentina last beat Milan in the second encounter of a Serie A season back in March 2015 (2-1 thanks to goals by Gonzalo Rodriguez and Joaquin for the Viola, Destro for the Rossoneri).
➤ Fiorentina have drawn three of their last four home games against AC Milan in Serie A (L1), last winning at home against Rossoneri back in August 2015 (2-0, goals by Marcos Alonso and Ilicic).
➤ Fiorentina won last time out against Benevento; they are one of the four teams yet to win back-to-back matches in Serie A this season, along with Torino, Parma and Crotone.
➤ In the first eight matches of the second half of the season, AC Milan have averaged 1.6 points per game, having averaged 2.5 points per game in their first eight matches of the first half of the season.
➤ After scoring in 38 consecutive league games, AC Milan have failed to score in four of their last nine, losing each of the four matches in which they did not score.
➤ Fiorentina (19% – 8/42) and AC Milan (19% – 6/31) are two of the three teams to have conceded the highest percentage of their goals from corner kick situations in Serie A this term — also Verona 19% (6/32).
➤ Cesare Prandelli has lost each of his last seven managerial matches against AC Milan in Serie A, with his teams failing to score in six of those seven games.
➤ Excluding San Siro, Artemio Franchi is the stadium where AC Milan’s Hakan Calhanoglu has scored the most goals in Serie A – two goals in his three games played away against Fiorentina.
➤ Fiorentina’s Dusan Vlahovic is only one goal away from becoming the best Serbian scorer in a single Serie A campaign: he has scored 12 goals so far, as many as Sergej Milinkovic-Savic scored in 2017-18.
Ones to watch
It will be interesting to see how many minutes Ibrahimovic will have in his legs, but it’s clear that his presence will be crucial for Milan. Having created many chances as of late, they need someone who can convert that and the Swede is their man.
It’s also the final game ahead of the international break, which Ibrahimovic will take part in now that he’s completed his comeback to the Swedish national team. Therefore, it’s a good opportunity to show that he’s really back (with the injury and all).
In addition to Ibrahimovic, Tomori will be very important at the back as Vlahovic has been in great form for Fiorentina recently. The Chelsea loanee impressed against Man Utd (once again) and right now, €28m is looking like a steal for him.
As for Fiorentina, which you could guess by now, Vlahovic is the danger man up front and a player that the Rossoneri really need to deflate. We shouldn’t forget Franck Ribery either, who will start alongside the Serbian.
If the duo gets to much space, they will surely find a way through with Ribery’s smart passing and Vlahovic’s willingness to make the runs. In short, it’s an interesting but tough task for both Tomori and Kjaer.
With two losses in the bag, it won’t be an easy game for the Rossoneri but they will surely be eager to bounce back with a win. Although Ibrahimovic won’t be able to play the full 90 minutes, his presence will be extremely important.
In addition, Milan’s away form has been very impressive this season and hopefully, they can build on that tomorrow. After all, we know that this team is strong enough mentally to pull this off, despite the young age.
Prediction: Fiorentina 1-2 Milan